Woodstock '94, Mud, sweat and beers: The clash of cultures that summed up metals maddest year
By Jon Wiederhorn (Metal Hammer) August 13, 2019
With iconic performances from the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Metallica, Woodstock 94 embraced alt-rock and metal rather than channelling the hippy vibes of the history-making original.
(Image credit: Getty)
As they prepared to take the stage to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original Woodstock, Nine Inch Nails looked out from the covered backstage area at the sheets of rain pouring from the sky. The 200,000 fans waited on the mud-slick field, poised for the moshpit to erupt.
Nine Inch Nails had played festivals before, but nothing on this level, and the guys frontman Trent Reznor, guitarists Danny Lohner and Robin Finck, keyboardist James Woolley and drummer Chris Vrenna were anxious and fidgety before showtime. The weather was irrelevant. It was time to sink or swim.
To ease the tension, James scooped up some mud and flicked it at one of his bandmates, who responded with a playful, Fuck you, and flung a larger handful back at the keyboardist.
It was like the beginning of a food fight, Chris recalls. One thing led to another, and the next thing we knew, everyone was covered from head to toe and we were all laughing for the first time of the day.
Mud was even more omnipresent for Woodstock 94 than it had been in 1969. At the back of the fairgrounds, fans danced in dirty-brown, knee-deep puddles. In the moshpits, they slid into one another as if they were fighting on ice skates.
And other bands, especially Green Day, turned a potential disaster into a free-for-all party. When the crowd started throwing clumps of dirt at them, they embraced the chaos, flinging it back and triggering a giddy, chaotic mud fight.
By the end, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong had dropped his pants and a security guard had accidentally clocked bassist Mike Dirnt in the mouth, knocking out some of his front teeth.
(Image credit: Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
The show did for Green Day what the mud costumes did for NIN; footage of the show was repeatedly splashed across MTV and three months later Green Days second album, Dookie, hit No.4 on the charts.
If there was a theme song for the festival, itd be Primuss My Name is Mud. But rather than trash the venue as some fans did at Woodstock 99 or get mad and leave, the majority of crowd members revelled in it.
Motivated by recreational pharmaceuticals, primal lust or a combination of both, they spent as much time frolicking in the mud at the back of the festival grounds as they did in the audience.
There was shit going on back there that had nothing to do with what was going on by the stage, recalls Blind Melon guitarist Rogers Stevens. It was like Lord Of The Flies. You could vaguely hear music and there were giant mud puddles with naked people writhing around. Some of them were dancing, some were, uhh, doing other things.
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One morning when at Woodstock 94 working Security, they called us in early because the bands started early. We get in there and this guy had his girlfriend on his shoulders right down front.
They were telling him to get her down and he wouldn't get her down.
There were these two old hippies down front that were at the first Woodstock. I hollered at them, "Spread out! I'm coming in!" And I jumped into the crowd.
Someone reached out and grabbed the girl by the wrist and pulled her off his shoulders. I circled around in the crowd. He was headed for the mosh pit. I grabbed him by the wrist before he got in there, reeled him in and threw him up against the barricade. I put my hand under his behind and boosted him up. Then the guys pulled me out.
Someone threw a wad of muddy straw and hit me in the face. There was a black guy on the crew hosing down the crowd. I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and hosed me off.
I saw him again at Lollapalooza in Des Moines in 1996. He was on the crew cart. When he saw me he stopped the cart, jumped off and ran over to give me a big hug. He said, "Tex, how ya doing?" He remembered me. And I am lucky to remember that too. ;)